Sir Douglas defends travel perks

Former Cabinet minister Sir Douglas Graham says he would not give up his MPs' travel allowance, though he would swap it for a pension when he got too old to travel.

Sir Douglas said he had "absolutely" used the 90 percent travel discount he was entitled to, including for a trip to Boston in the next few weeks, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.

Sir Douglas was a National MP from 1984 to 1999.

"I worked extremely hard down there (in Parliament).

"This (the subsidy) was part of the deal and as long as I can use it I will use it."

He would give up the subsidy for an acceptable "cash" substitute, he said.

"What other form is there - food?"

When details of MPs' expense claims were released for the first time last month, ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas came under fire for using the discount to fly himself and his wife to Britain.

Present and former MPs elected before 1999 receive a 60 percent discount on travel after nine years of service; after 12 years they get 75 percent; after 15 years they get 90 percent off.

Association of Former Members of Parliament president Graham Kelly said the allowances were part of legally binding terms of employment.

"Our conditions were set at the time for those members -- there are not that many involved -- and it's a contract between the Government and them which would be broken if it was changed without mutual agreement," the former Labour MP told the New Zealand Herald.

The allowance was taken into account when salary rates were set, he said.

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